Sunday, January 10, 2016

Constants and Variables

There are some things in my life that I like to stay constant: time for lectio, reading poetry, opportunities for solitude, encountering nature, interaction with kids. They all help me experience God.

And, there are some things that I didn't know I didn't need to be constant: journaling daily minutiae and Internet time.

I recently decided that I would "restructure" my days to give myself more time for those life giving experiences that I mentioned first. That basically means learning to keep my laptop closed. Until I tried this restructuring, I didn't realize how much time I spent clicking from link to link online, engaging my curiosity about trivial things. Do I really need to know the top 50 restaurants in the world? While intriguing, probably not.

It is taking a conscious effort to hold back when I feel the urge to get up from the chair to investigate something about which I am reading, instead staying engaged in what I am doing in the present moment. A very conscious effort. But, like I said before...baby steps.

So, there are things I am willing to change. But, what happens when the things I like to be constant have to change?

My main form of reading poetry had been a wonderful online project called A Year of Being Here. Each day I received a new mindfulness-related poem in my inbox and savored the words, but the project ended on the first day of the new year. When a new poem did not arrive on the second day of the year, I felt a bit sad. So, I had to create a new constant.

With some of my extra morning time that I don't spend checking Facebook, I decided that I would start reading a Mary Oliver poetry book cover-to-cover. Maybe I will make it through my entire Mary collection, maybe not. (It's a pretty big stack!) Either way, I am enjoying my new constant so far.

Maybe you'll enjoy this poem, too. It's title is Bone.

1.
Understand, I am always trying to figure out
what the soul is,
and where hidden,
and what shape --

and so, last week,
when I found on the beach
the ear bone
of a pilot whale that may have died

hundreds of years ago, I thought
maybe I was close
to discovering something --
for the ear bone

2.
is the portion that lasts longest
in any of us, man or whale; shaped
like a squat spoon
with a pink scoop where

once, in the lively swimmer's head,
it joined its two sisters
in the house of hearing,
it was only

two inches long --
and I thought: the soul
might be like this --
so hard, so necessary --

3.
yet almost nothing.
Beside me
the gray sea
was opening and shutting its wave-doors,

unfolding over and over
its time-ridiculing roar;
I looked but I couldn't see anything
through its dark-knit glare;

yet don't we all
know, the golden sand
is there at the bottom,
though our eyes have never seen it,
nor can our hands ever catch it

4.
lest we would sift it down
into fractions, and facts --
certainties --
and what the soul is, also

I believe I will never quite know.
Though I play at the edges of knowing,
truly I know
our part is not knowing,

but looking, and touching, and loving,
which is the way I walked on,
softly,
through the pale-pink morning light.

Are there any constants calling you to change right now?

Let us walk in the holy presence.